Sermon Scripture: Acts 4:32:37; John 20:19-22; 1John 1:5-2:3
Sermon Purpose: What binds us together; unity of purpose to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and to go forth and make disciples of all nations.
Sermon Title: What Binds Us Together?

Do you know why Sunday mornings at eleven o’clock are the most segregated day and time in America? (Pause) We like to be with the people who are like us. In some ways it is like we never left high school. In high school or even middle school the comic book geeks hung out with the comic book geeks, the band geeks hung out with the band geeks, the jocks hung out with the jocks, the preps with the preps… you get the picture. Out in the real world things are surprisingly similar on Sunday mornings. The African American’s worship over here, and the Pentecostals worship over there, and the Methodists worship over here. It’s funny how the bigger churches seem to have the wealthier people. Smaller churches tend to have people who are less affluent and more relational and working class. And yet within the congregations we tend to gather with those who are most like us. What should bring us together? What is it that should draw us together across lines of race, class, gender and economics? What is it that binds us together as Christians?

The disciples were not a lot alike. Peter was loud, and uneducated. James and John were eager for power and asked to be seated at the left and right hand of Jesus. Matthew, as a tax collector was seen as an enemy of his own people. Philip doubted anything good could come from Nazareth. Judas had betrayed Jesus and hung himself. And in our passage from the Gospel according to John, Thomas doubted Jesus had been raised from the dead. What did these disciples of Jesus have in common? What was it that drew them together after Good Friday? Remember, after Jesus’ arrest the disciples were divided, scattered and scared. Now Jesus is dead, and the fear of the Jewish leadership had the Disciples in hiding. Was it a shared fear which brought the disciples back together to hide or could it have been something else? I think what was holding the disciples together during those three days before the resurrection was belief in a promise Jesus had made. In three days Jesus would be raised from the dead. I think that promise gave the disciples hope.

Then it happened. The women came back from the tomb bringing a report that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. Jesus had been raised from the dead and they had seen Him. Then Jesus appeared to ten of the eleven remaining disciples. Jesus appeared again when Thomas was present. Now these eleven disciples of Jesus had a common experience of having seen the risen Messiah to hold them together. But Jesus tells them something very strange. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Let me ask you Church, what is holding these people together? Is it just something they have seen, or could it be belief in something more?

In Acts we are told they had everything in common. There were people joining the group – theses followers of the way of Jesus Christ. They were all of one heart and one soul – a phrase all too similar to the great commandment to be ignored.[1] The people devoted themselves to the apostles’ testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A testimony is not a book report, or a recitation of something we have learned to say. A testimony is a presentation of something we have seen or felt for ourselves and know to be true. The result of being devoted to the apostles’ testimony about the resurrection of Jesus Christ was there was not a needy person among them. There were even people in their midst who were willing to sell property they owned to make sure the needy among them did not go hungry. They cared for one another. They cared about one another. And where they saw a need they reached out to see that need was satisfied.

Church, why did these followers of Jesus Christ care so much about one another? Why did these followers of Jesus Christ come together? Why did these followers of the way of Jesus Christ devote themselves to the apostle’s testimony? Why did these early Christians care for and care about one another? They did so because no matter how different they were they were United in one thing. They were United in the truth that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully God. They were United in the truth the Son of God volunteered Himself to die as a sacrifice for our sins. They were United in the truth that on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, and freed us all from bondage to sin and death. They were united in the truth of Jesus’ lordship over their lives. This truth set them free from the darkness of sin and death. The truth they were united in set them free from bitterness, envy, greed and hostility toward one another because of pride, envy, and ambition. The truth of Jesus Christ unifies people across the boundaries of race, gender, class or economic status. There aint nothing that can come between us and the love of Christ! Amen? Amen!! Amen? Amen!!

So why do we put so much between us and others? If we want to do what Scripture says and to be like the Acts 2 church then why shouldn’t we be unified in Christ? Why do we put so much darkness between ourselves and the people who do not look like us, smell like us, or make the kind of money we do? Why do we put so much darkness between ourselves and people who are younger than us, or older than us? You may be asking when do we put darkness between us? Darkness creeps into our relationships when we put ourselves ahead of Christ. Darkness creeps in when church becomes a place to see our wants, our desires, and our needs met instead of serving others for Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:7 says, “[i]f we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” To those who would like to argue the point so say, “I don’t put darkness between me and the person sitting next to me or across from me,” please allow me to refer you to the next couple of verses from 1 John 1. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1John 1:8-10). Is there anybody here wearing big enough shoes to stand toe to toe with the Almighty and call God a liar? (pause)

Yeah. Me neither. I guess I’ll just have to accept it. I am a sinner. I guess I’d better see if I’m alone here this morning. Good Morning Saints! Good Morning Sinners! Oh good. I’m not alone. Sisters and brothers Jesus Christ came and died so that we would not continue walking in the painful, sinful paths we walked before we knew Christ. Jesus Christ came so we would not walk in darkness or put darkness between one another. Jesus came so we would walk in the light. Jesus died so we would not stumble in the darkness of our own minds any more. Jesus came so we would have life and have it more abundantly. The only way to have that kind of life is to point our lives toward the light of Jesus Christ. The closer we come to Christ the closer we come to each other. The more firmly we devote our lives to the love of Christ the more firmly we are united together in this one common cause. And what is our cause? To go forth and make disciples of all nations. Amen? Amen! How are we gonna make disciples? By laying our differences aside and putting God first. Amen? Amen! Sisters and brothers to put God first is to walk in the light. Let us walk in the light of Jesus Christ together.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Deut 6:5 ESV “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”